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Most Republicans Still Believe Election Was Stollen; First Trump Pre-Trial Hearing in Georgia; Deadly Stabbing Rampage in Illinois; Conspiracy Theories over Bridge Crash; Charley Pereira is Interviewed about the Baltimore Bridge Investigation. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired March 28, 2024 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, CNN is hearing from Larry David on what he thinks about Donald Trump. Chris Wallace had a fascinating conversation with him.


LARRY DAVID, ACTOR, "CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM": You can't go a day without thinking about what he's done to this country because he's such a little baby that he's thrown 250 years of democracy out the window by not accepting the results of an - I mean it's - it's so crazy. He's such a sociopath. He's so insane. He just couldn't admit to losing. And we know he lost. He knows he lost. And look how he - he's fooled everybody. He's convinced all these people that he didn't lose. It's - he's such a sick man. He's so sick.

Anyway, no, it hasn't impacted me at all.


BERMAN: That's the quintessential Larry David right there. That full conversation streams tomorrow on "WHO'S TALKING TO CHRIS WALLACE."

With me now, CNN's senior political - actually, the senior data reporter -


BERMAN: There's just a lot of words they threw in there.

ENTEN: Why don't you put chief in there.

BERMAN: CNN chief data reporter - I'm going to get in trouble for that -- Harry Enten.

It's great to see you.

Look, what Larry David was talking about there is election denialism, which is very much in the news this week. The RNC now reportedly with a litmus tests asking people, did Donald Trump actually lose the election?

Talk to us about what the polls are saying about this idea of election denialism.

ENTEN: Yes, you know, if we look on Republicans, right, Republicans on Biden's 2020 win, legitimate. Let's go back to December of 2021, 39 percent said it was legitimate, 58 percent said it was illegitimate. Jump to December of 2023, those opinions have not, in any way, shifted towards the actual truth. They have actually straight further into the untruth. Now, 67 percent of Republicans believe that the 2020 election was illegitimate. Of course they are on fantasy island. Everything that we know from the real data said that election was legitimate, yet Republicans are on this fantasy island.

BERMAN: Some of that seems to be correlated to what they're watching on TV, yes?

ENTEN: Yes. So, this to me, I just - I love digging deep into the cross tabs and finding something interesting. Republicans who believed the 2020 election was legitimate. If you're a mainstream media follow, let's say you're watching NBC News, if you're a Republican, 58 percent of those folks believe the election was legitimate. But if you're following conservative media, look this, just 23 percent believe the election was legitimate. We're talking Fox News. We're talking OANN. We're talking Newsmax. Very few of those voters believed that Republicans believed the election was legitimate. Far more Republicans who follow the mainstream media actually believe the truth.

BERMAN: My statistics professor no doubt is yelling at the screen right now. I said it was a correlation. We don't know whether it's correlation or causation.

ENTEN: Causation (ph).

BERMAN: But it's there.

ENTEN: It's there.

BERMAN: It's there.

Now, what about this idea of a litmus tests? The RNC apparently asking people who want to work for them what they think about the election. What about the idea of it as a litmus test?

ENTEN: Yes. Among all Republicans, they don't like the idea of a litmus tests, right? Most Republicans believed that there should not, in fact, be a litmus tests. Only 38 percent believe that there should be. Compared to the hardcore Trump backers, those who backed him at the very beginning of the campaign, the majority of those do, in fact, believe that the party should not be accepting of those who do not believe the election, essentially saying, you better believe that the election was illegitimate if, in fact, you're going to be a public official. But among all Republicans, no, they don't believe there should be a litmus test. But among those hardcore Trump backers, they absolutely believe that there should be.

BERMAN: This is who's running the RNC right now.

ENTEN: That's exactly right.

BERMAN: Talk to me about voters as - as a whole, because we've only been talking about Republicans up until now.

ENTEN: Yes, all adults on Biden's win. Most Americans believe that Biden's win was legitimate. Stuck in all this conversation about just focusing on Republicans, most Americans believe that the 2020 election was legitimate. Thirty-six percent, still a very large portion, believe it's illegitimate. But that's focused mostly among Republicans. You're looking among independents. You're looking among Democrat. You're looking overall. Most of those folks, in fact, do believe the election was legitimate, which, of course, it was, John.

Harry Enten, thank you very much for that.

ENTEN: Thank you, man.

BERMAN: That was terrific.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, this morning, the election interference case against Donald Trump will get back on track in Georgia after the failed effort to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. Willis says nothing will derail her from bringing the case against the former president and his co-defendants.

Joining me now to discuss, former Manhattan prosecutor Jeremy Saland, and former prosecutor for the New York District Attorney's Office, Rebecca Roiphe.

Thank you both for being here.

Jeremy, I'm going to start with you. What should we be looking for in court when it resumes today in Georgia?

JEREMY SALAND, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Well, hopefully the fiasco has gone to the side and it's no longer there. And what we're looking at is whether or not at this stage in the process the judge is going to be willing to dismiss this case or hear whether it should be dismissed on (INAUDIBLE) - pardon me, on the First Amendment grounds.


And we know that this was already addressed previously with one of the prior co-defendant, or two of them, most specifically Mr. Chesebro.

But, you know, I think some of the issues that are going to be at play is, the judge has already said, we need to establish certain facts. We have to have some things in evidence before I can make that determination. You know, we already heard about how - how previously that application was denied. So, I would expect that you're not going to have an answer today, but we're going to get an answer going forward.

SIDNER: All right, you just mentioned this, you know, sort of talking about what happened with Fani Willis as Trump's folks went after her trying to get her discredited and disbarred from this case -or removed from the case. For weeks that's where the concentration has been. It's been focused on the DA, not on this big, huge case, unprecedented against a former president.

What's the key, you think, for - Rebecca, for - for her to move forward on this case and re-shift the focus to the RICO case involving the former president?

PROFESSOR REBECCA ROIPHE, NEW YORK LAW SCHOOL: It all depends on how well she can argue these underlying motions and keep the case on track. So, she says the train is coming, but, you know, it remains to be seen. There's a cloud over this case. The judge did chastise and had some very strong words for her. So now I think she really has to focus on presenting this case in a professional way and, you know, putting her strongest foot forward.

So here, in this First Amendment argument, she needs to make it clear that this - that this -- his words, that the political speech was part of an ongoing set of conduct that could be criminalized and therefore is not protected by the First Amendment. And she has to make that argument clearly before the judge, even though it's true that this argument has been made in the past and the judge has passed on it. I think all eyes are on her to make sure that this is a professional case moving forward.

SIDNER: One of the defendants in this Georgia election cases is former Trump attorney John Eastman. A judge in California has recently ruled he should be disbarred for his actions in trying to overturn the 2020 election. Can this be used against him in that Georgia case, Jeremy?

SALAND: Well, you know, the same principles are going to apply. It's not whether or not, for example, in that state bar decision, or its recommendation, it's not the actual decision, that he was not repentant, he was not remorseful. But some of the facts are going to be the same. Meaning, you know, he was actively engaging in this effort to overturn this election. So, the substance of it is going to be the same.

The ruling is not a final ruling. It's just, ultimately - it's a ruling from that state court judge, but he is not disbarred. He's temporarily not able to practice law. That should not come in. I would argue, if I were the defense, that there's no place for that because it's not a final ruling. It has not come to a conclusion.

But the underlying elements of that, he has not been apologetic. He's not been repentant. I'm sure he'll be challenged on that front. But what did he specifically do? What were his actions that lead to that point? How did he try to, you know, put into the fake elector? How do he try to make it so that Pence would not be able to say, you know what, we can sit the real ones, we're going to put these fake ones forward. What were the memos that he drafted? How did that impact Georgia? So, those specific elements to the crimes that potentially overlap,

yes, we could hear that, but the decision right now, it's not finalized. So, I would not expect that final decision would come into the state case in Georgia.

SIDNER: OK. The last time we heard from John Eastman in August was when he surrendered to the Fulton County authorities.

And let's listen to what he had to say when you're talking about him being unapologetic for what he did during the 2020 election.


JOHN EASTMAN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY: My name is John Eastman. I'm here today to surrender to an indictment. As troubling, it targets attorneys for their zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients. Something attorneys are ethically bound to provide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still think the election was stolen?

EASTMAN: Absolutely.


EASTMAN: No question. No question in my mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you regret attaching your name to the former president?

EASTMAN: None whatsoever.


SIDNER: Rebecca, you were a witness for him, although the judge never brought you forward, in - in his - in one of his cases. Can you give us some sense of whether you think he has a case here when he talks about the First Amendment and he says he did nothing wrong?

ROIPHE: Well, those are two different questions, whether or not his - his speech was protected by the First Amendment. And I think unlike the criminal case, there are serious concerns with the California disciplinary hearing in terms of protected speech. Because rather than seeking to prove criminal conduct, those disciplinary hearings are really aimed at, as he said, his advocacy on behalf of his clients.


The words he used on behalf of his client. And I think that that can be problematic. And I would have my eye on the court to see what it - what it says about that recommendation and whether it upholds the recommendation or at least views some of those charges as potentially problematic under the First Amendment.

And I think it's really important, even if we condemn certain things that lawyers do, that we are very careful about the First Amendment because there may be lawyers in the future who are trying to challenge government conduct, and we do not want to chill them from doing that in other contexts.

SIDNER: Yes, I mean, you - that is your thoughts on his argument about the First Amendment.

Jeremy, I'm curious what you think of that argument.

SALAND: I think that's a fair argument. And you have said, an attorney always has to act zealously. A you subjectively, not you personally, Sara, but you may not want that person to be - you may deem that person guilty, you may think that person does a terrible thing, but an attorney has to be able to advocate for his or her client.

That being said, you know, words are important too. And that goes back -- sort of back to our First Amendment issue here with Trump and his co-defendants. Words can be criminal. Generally you don't think them as alone as such, but there's a balance here. There's a balance of whether or not you are part of that conduct or misconduct, and there's a balance of whether or not your actions are improper. So, we have to be careful to allow defense attorneys to do their job, but you still - that does not give you the right to step over that line.

SIDNER: Yes, there were those two memos that were sent to the vice president encouraging him in six points on how to sort of overturn or stop the election from going forward. We'll have to see what the judge decides in all of this and what the jury decides in all of this as well.

Jeremy Saland and Rebecca Roiphe, thank you both so much for your analysis.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Sara, investigators are searching for a motive in the deadly stabbing spree across an Illinois neighborhood. A 22-year-old is now in custody, accused of killing four people, including a 15-year-old girl, and injuring seven others. First responders had multiple crime scenes in a matter of minutes.

CNN's Veronica Miracle is joining us now from Chicago.

So, Veronica, what more do we know about the suspect?

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, that 22-year-old man was taken into custody just a half an hour after that initial 911 call first went into police, which came in as a home invasion. But as to why this happened, police do not have a clear understanding of a motive here as to why this person went on a killing spree in multiple areas in the city of Rockford.

As you mentioned, four people have been killed, including a 15-year- old girl, a 63-year-old woman, a 49-year-old man, and a 22-year-old man. One of those people was a mail carrier. And another seven people were injured in this attack here, including a person who was able to get away during that initial home invasion according to police.

Take a listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF GARY CARUANA, WINNEBAGO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: The young lady ran from him. She got some stab wounds in their hands, in her face. She's currently in a hospital and she is intubated. She is in serious condition.


MIRACLE: Police say this is a massive investigation. Of those victims who were injured, not all of them were stabbed, though some of them were. We're still waiting to hear on the extent of the injuries of those hospitalized, but we're told that many of them are in serious condition. Community leaders, they're now setting up a vigil for later this afternoon as people are trying to make sense of exactly why this happened.

Back to you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yes, for so many injured, let's hope they have a full recovery.

Thank you so much, Veronica Miracle.


SIDNER: All right, on our radar for you this morning, prisoner exchange talks for "Wall Street Journal" reporter Evan Gershkovich are ongoing according to a Kremlin spokesperson. Dmitry Peskov says those discussions must be carried out in silence to prevent complications. Earlier this week, a Moscow court extended Gershkovich's detention until the end of June. And just a reminder, this week marks a year that Gershkovich has been imprisoned in Russia for doing his job as a journalist there.

Cases of MPOX, formerly known as monkeypox, are on the rise in the United States. That case count is twice as high as they were at this time last year. Transmission rates are still far below levels from 2022, but experts say low vaccination rates are leaving a lot of people at risk.

And police are using a recent shooting as an example of the importance of robotic technology. Massachusetts State Police sent members of the bomb squad to help with a standoff earlier this month and deployed a robot dog named Roscoe to go inside. The suspect inside knocked it over and shot it several times. Police say it's a good example of why robots can help keep members of law enforcement safe while still getting an inside look at a chaotic seen. The suspect, by the way, in custody.

And some incredible video this morning of a Florida car crash and the amazing display of human strength that followed.


Here you can see the collision at an intersection - this is Daytona Beach, Florida - were an SUV tipped over with the driver still inside. Bystanders, you see them there, pushing on the truck, including some from other cars involved in the crash, immediately jumping into action. Oh, there's that hit again. Helping to flip the SUV upright again. Most first responders would say it's best to leave the car where it is before you get there, but fortunately, in this case, no one was seriously hurt.

And new research showing something definitely worth whining about. Scientists say 90 percent of the world's wine-growing regions may close by the end of the century with climate change being the main reason -- or Riesling. The grape growing process is pretty delicate, as you know, and a new review shows more droughts and heat waves could make grape production poor. So, stop and smell the roses, or the Roses, while you can. I'm sorry for all the puns, John.

BERMAN: Apology accepted.

The delusional conspiracy theories of what caused the Baltimore bridge collapse. It was foreign agents. It was the Obamas. How about side effects from Covid vaccines? Why do these ridiculous, absurd notions existed all?

And how much time will one of the largest white-collar criminals in U.S. history have to spend behind bars?



BERMAN: So new this morning, the absurd, not to mention offensive alternate reality, devoid of facts, that was created as search and rescue efforts were underway at the Baltimore bridge collapse.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is with us this warning.

You know, why, Donie? Just, why?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, look, I mean, by the time most of us woke up on Tuesday morning to that news of the collapse of the bridge in Baltimore, there were already wild conspiracy theories circulating online just hours after the event occurred.

I wanted to show you a list quickly of just some of these totally false conspiracy theories just to show you how ridiculous they are. Initially people were claiming that there was a foreign cyberattack on the - on the ship making it deliberately crash into the bridge, of course, which is false. There's absolutely no evidence for that.

Another one was that the captain of the ship was impaired in some way by the Covid-19 vaccine. Again, totally false. Nothing happened with the captain. Others were claiming, obviously, with anti-symmetric and anti-Ukraine undertones that Israel or Ukraine were somehow responsible for the attack.

And also it just kind of got a bit wilder and wilder after that. There was an Obama - the Obamas produced a movie on Netflix that had a tanker ship run aground in it. So, therefore, the Obamas had something to do with this.

And then, of course, you know, these conspiracy theories and this tragic event was taken - used as a political battering ram in our culture wars in this country at the moment. And people decided to blame DEI, diversity and inclusion policies, in some way for the crashing of this ship.

BERMAN: And what spreads these. Once these are posted, how do they get spread so quickly, Donie?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, I mean that was the pretty remarkable thing is that, you know, we saw the numbers immediately on Tuesday morning and it was tens of millions of people saw these posts. It's very possible that tens of millions of Americans woke up on Tuesday morning and before they actually saw the news, before they actually saw the facts of what happened in Baltimore, they would have read some of these conspiracy theories.

And I think, John, look, there's always been conspiracy theories about sort of any cataclysmic events in the United States or around the world. But I think what is different about what we're seeing right now is just the speed and also essentially just the volume of conspiracy theories immediately that will pop up basically on any event. I mean we're talking about this today because obviously this is a huge story, the bridge collapse and the virality of these posts.

But really the notable thing about this is how it is not extraordinary. There are - there is an alternate reality, right, being created every day. Whether it's Taylor Swift rigging the Super Bowl, or whether it is the 2020 election being rigged in favor of Joe Biden, both of which are false.

But more and more, Americans are living in this world. And, look, the people who are making this misinformation and disinformation or spreading it, they're being rewarded greatly because platforms like X, which formerly Twitter, now owned by Elon Musk, pays in certain cases for post to go viral. And viral posts can oftentimes be false and scandalous and outlandish and false posts.

So, there's just this whole industry there. And I think what really, you know, we should take a step back and just see, like, this is the landscape that we're going into the 2024 election and you can just see how well-oiled a machine the disinformation industry is.

BERMAN: Yes, well, instead of paying attention to that, let's think about the - let's think about the lives that were lost in the lives - the thousands of lives effected from the workers in Baltimore.

Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much. An important report. Appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: All right, and here's a different kind of reality check, as in the reality.

New video showing what was happening on that Baltimore bridge just seconds before it collapsed into the river after a cargo ship rammed into it.


A final few cars made it safely to the other side. But those flashing lights that you see on the bridge are vehicles believed to belong to the construction workers who did not make it off the bridge in time. And you can also see just to the right of the bridge the cargo ship. You can see the lights there just seconds before it actually hit the pillar.

Joining me right now, former NTSB investigator, Charley Pereira.

Good to see you, Charley.

So, the NTSB chair, Jennifer Homendy, says that the investigation could take up to two years. Help us understand what will happen in that two-year period. It would seem the focus is going to be on the vessel, right? These reports of whether there was dirty fuel or why the steering mechanisms simply failed. Is it secondary - the secondary portion of the investigation going to be the actual bridge and why it collapsed the way it did?

CHARLEY PEREIRA, FORMER NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Well, they're going to collect all of the facts for every portion of the investigation. The boat, the maritime side, the highway side. They're going to collect all of the information, including information about what the Federal Highway Administration and the state of Maryland did since the NTSB over the last 50 years, has investigated dozens of these and issued numerous recommendations over the last 50 years, calling for states and the Federal Highway Administration to take a look at the risks posed by vessel strikes on bridges and encouraging them to do something about it, such as protect these bridges.

And I guess in this case the Federal Highway Administration and the state of Maryland decided not to act on this bridge, even though this is a - probably this in the Bay Bridge that goes from Annapolis to Kent Island are probably the two most significant and at-risk bridges in terms of traffic exposure on a daily basis. So, hopefully the investigation will look at what - or why the Federal Highway Administration and the state of Maryland didn't act on the NTSB recommendations over the last 50 years.

WHITFIELD: Well, it's been stated that this investigation could take two years. Surely there will be a, I guess, more of a pinpointing of the cause, what happened to that vessel, well before that time, don't you think?

PEREIRA: Yes, they're going to look at that. But, in my eyes, that's just another data point. It doesn't really - you know, in the big picture of transportation safety, it doesn't really matter why it happened. We know that there are an infinite number of reasons why these things can happen. Bad fuel. Dropper rudder. Intentional acts. There's always going to be some other reason. An infinite number of solutions for a large vessel like this to strike a critical bridge structure. And unless you put in place protective devices to prevent those impacts from occurring, and the failure to the bridge occurring from those impacts, you're always going to have these. It's just a matter of time and statistical probability until the accident happens. So, from a safety (INAUDIBLE) point, it's very frustrating to see action not be taken to mitigate when these impacts do occur.

WHITFIELD: All right, so that - that focal point of the infrastructure of the bridge, the Key Bridge, did not have any redundancy. It's a fracture critical bridge. Help better explain what that means. I mean it - it all collapses when a portion of it is compromised. But how do you see this latest example perhaps being important when trying to construct bridges of our future?

PEREIRA: Well, there's different ways that you can design it. Just like on airplanes. You know, airplanes have triple redundant systems and double redundant systems such that if one fails they have other backups that continue the safe operation.

And the same thing with a bridge. You can either design it so that if a ship strikes one and takes one out, there's still enough structural rigidity and support to not cause the entire bridge to collapse, or you can design it like they did on this one, with a single point failure and then do everything you can to protect that point by, you know, building a variety of structural protection mechanisms to prevent the single point failure from occurring.

And the NTSB has delved into recommendations in that regard for almost 50 years now as a result of numerous bridge strikes like this that they've investigated in the past, in Florida, Georgia, elsewhere.


WHITFIELD: All right. Very good. All right, we'll leave it there.